Parliament Committee of Privileges should haul up the ACA Investigations Director Nordin Ismail to ask him to show cause why he should not be punished for breach of parliamentary privileges unless he could produce prima facie evidence to justify investigation into “14 MPs” for submitting parliamentary claims exceeding RM10,000 a month

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(PenangWednesday): On Monday, I said Parliament had become a laughing-stock   in the country as a result of  the reckless allegation of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Noh Omar last Wednesday of  excessive parliamentary  claims by Members of Parliament, and his utter irresponsibility in failing to distinguish between “meeting claims” with “non-meeting claims”, thus  subjecting all Members of Parliament, whether government or opposition, to  public suspicion and ridicule  for being far from honest and scrupulous in their claims in the  highest political and legislative chamber in the land.  

Today, such public suspicion and ridicule would have turned to  distrust and contempt  when Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian front-paged screaming headlines and  reports of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA)  going to interrogate  14 Members of Parliament whose parliamentary claims exceeded RM10,000 a month, plunging the dignity and public esteem for the institution of Parliament to an all-time low in the 46-year history of the nation! 

Utusan Malaysia front-page headline “BPR siasat 14 ahli Parlimen – Ekoran tuntuan perjalanan mereka didakwa mencurigakan” and Berita Harian’s “Tuntutan: BPR mahu soal 14 Ahli Parlimen” quoted  the ACA Director of Investigations, Datuk Nordin Ismail, as saying that the ACA will interview 14 MPs whose “mileage claims” exceeded RM10,000 a month. 

Nordin said the ACA had obtained documents from Parliament’s finance division as well as the Hansard of Parliament’s proceedings and will compare the claims with a circular on the claim rate fixed for MPs. 

He said the case is being investigated under Section 11c of the Corruption of Prevention Act 1997 and that the ACA would use its expertise in forensic accounting to investigate the matter. 

Four  thoughts immediately came to my mind  when I read these screaming headlines about ACA investigations into 14 MPs for false and excessive parliamentary claims: 

  • Firstly, how low  the dignity, credibility and authority of  Parliament had fallen as  for the first time in 36 years, ACA officers are in Parliament not to garner information from the debates and exposes of MPs about corruption in the country but to investigate corruption by MPs themselves for false and corrupt parliamentary claims.  (The ACA celebrates its 36th anniversary today).
  • Secondly, the slipshodness and unprofessionalism of ACA, as after one week of publicity and controversy, (1) it is still talking about “mileage claims” when what is referred to are “parliamentary claims” as mileage at 60 sen per kilometer is only one of several items claimed which represent about 30 per cent of the overall monthly  parliamentary claims, other items being meeting allowance at RM150 a day, hotel allowance at RM230 a day or non-hotel  accommodation allowance at RM80 a day, living allowance at RM100 a day, etc. (ii) It is not 14 but 16 MPs who had been named by Noh as having submitted monthly claims exceeding RM10,000 in the 18 months from January 2002 to June 2003.
  • Thirdly, the ACA has virtually nothing to  show for its “forensic accounting” skills to  resolve mega financial scandals, dealing not just with RM10,000 a month but tens and  hundreds of millions and even billions of ringgit, like the long-standing Perwaja scandal or even into my six-year ACA report for investigations into the then MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik and his son, Hee Leong,  on the latter’s RM1.2 billion corporate acquisitions in a matter of months when only 27 years old, with one ACA officer saying that investigations have closed and that no offences had been disclosed while another ACA officer had given  a conflicting version that investigations are still on-going.
  • Fourthly, that the ACA Investigations Director had committed grave breaches  of parliamentary privileges and whether the Parliament Committee of Privileges would haul him up to ask him to show cause why he should not be punished for breach of parliamentary privileges unless he could produce prima facie evidence to justify investigations into “14 MPs” for submitting false and corrupt parliamentary claims exceeding RM10,000 a month.

A simple check  without requiring any “forensic accounting” would have told the ACA that based on regulations on parliamentary claims, it would be commonplace for MPs who record full attendance for long parliamentary meetings, like the 19-day parliamentary budget meeting last October, to claim over RM10,000 – and that those whose claims are below RM10,000 had either under-claimed or under-attended.  If the intention is to discourage parliamentary meeting claims exceeding RM10,000 a month, then the regulations on parliamentary claims would have to be amended to provide for lower claim rates.                                       

What is  shocking, and even news to me although I had been MP for 30 years from 1969 to 1999, is that  “non-meeting” claims by MPs could exceed RM10,000 a month, when they receive invitations to Federal, State and government agency functions – which is clearly indefensible and waste of public funds. 

This is why all  the 16 MPs from both sides of the House named by Noh  should publicly clarify whether their parliamentary  claims exceeding RM10,000 a month were “meeting claims” or “non-meeting” claims. 

Furthermore, if it is wrong for an MP to  have monthly  “non-meeting” claims exceeding RM10,000, it cannot be right when they are  below RM10,000 a month. 

Can Nordin explain what is the basis for the ACA to initiate investigations into the 16 MPs on the basis that their  parliamentary claims exceeded RM10,000 a month?

What about MPs whose claims were just below RM10,000, say between RM9,000 to RM9,999?  Is it right and permissible for MPs  to make false and excessive claims below RM10,000 a month but not above?   Why has the ACA landed itself with such an arbitrary position, which is not calculated to enhance public confidence in its professionalism and integrity?

This is why I had called for all parliamentary claims by MPs, whether “meeting” or “non-meeting”, after the 1999 general election to be made public – and the person to do so is the  Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by way of a Ministerial statement in Parliament to restore public confidence in the integrity of the institution of Parliament.

The ACA is duty-bound to explain whether it is really committed to fight graft and abuses of power, and not just playing along with the “political football” game started by Noh to attack the Opposition in reckless disregard of the damage to the institution of Parliament. 

If the ACA is genuinely committed against graft and corruption, it should also conduct full investigations into the claims by all  elected representatives, whether Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries at the national level or Chief Ministers, Mentris Besar, State Exco Members and State Assembly members at the state level? It should also conduct a full-scale investigation into the abuses and corrupt practices in the allocation of minor development funds for Barisan Nasional parliamentary constituencies, which have been increased to RM1 million a year!

The 16 MPs, 8  from the Barisan Nasional, 5 from PAS, 2 Keadilan and 1 DAP, named by Noh for having made claims exceeding RM10,000 a month in the 18 months from January 2002 to June 2003 are:

Claims for 2002 and till June  2003

1.      Mohd Apandi Mohamad (PAS – Jeli) - 16 times

2.      Jawah Anak Gerang (BN - Lubuk Antu) -  5 times

3.      Abdul Rahman Yusof (Keadilan – Kemaman) -  3 times

4.      Kong Cho Ha (BN – Lumut)  2 times

Claims for 2002   (once)

5.      Abdul  Fatah Harun (PAS - Rantau Panjang)

6.      Robert Lau Hoi Chew (BN – Sibu)

7.      Datuk Mastika Junaidah (BN  - Arau)

8.      Hoo Seong Chan (BN – Kluang)

9.      Lim Bee Kau (BN - Padang Serai)  

10.    Goh Kheng Huat (DAP - Nibong Tebal)  

11.    Mohd Yusof Mohd Nor (PAS –Machang)  

12.    Ramli Ibrahim (Keadilan - Kota Bharu)  

13.    Dr. Abu Bakar Othman (PAS – Jerlun)  

14.    Mohamed Nasir Che Daud (PAS - Kuala Krai)  

Claims for 2003 (till June) (once)

15.    Ronald Kiandee (BN – Beluran)  

16.    Jimmy Donald Lim  (BN – Sri Aman) .

If there is a prima facie case that the 16 MPs had been guilty of submitting false and corrupt claims, then they should be suspended as MPs until completion of investigations.

I believe however  that apart from the PAS MP for Jeli, Mohd Apandi Mohamad -  who according to Noh claimed RM132,000 last year and RM78,356.96 for the first six months of this year - all the other 15 MPs named by Noh for having submitted parliamentary claims exceeding RM10,000 a month, had done so in connection with “meeting claims”.

While there is nothing to prevent the ACA from  conducting investigations on MPs  if it has good reason to believe that the crime of corruption had been committed in connection with  false and excessive claims (which cannot be based on a reckless and irresponsible statement by a Parliamentary Secretary in Parliament), the most proper body to conduct full investigations affecting MPs  is the Committee of Privileges or a special committee set up by Parliament – or it would be another scandal where the Malaysian Parliament, unlike other Commonwealth Parliaments, is incapable of regulating its own affairs, including investigation and punishing MPs for breaches of privileges as submitting false and excessive claims.

Furthermore, the ACA should be mindful of not violating the privileges of MPs, which Nordin had clearly done in his announcement yesterday  that the ACA will investigate “14 MPs” – and for this, the Committee of Privileges should come out of its hibernation to do its duty.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman